INDIANAPOLIS – The humble joy always evident in his demeanor during his days at Butler came out immediately among a three-deep group of media in the tunnels underneath Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Greetings were by name to many of the Indianapolis reporters and photographers who gravitated to him for 15 minutes of conversation before the Celtics’ road game against the Pacers.
It was vintage Brad Stevens even as with his elevation to one of the prestigious jobs in the National Basketball Association-and his emotions were as genuine in his return to the Circle City as they were when he was a full-time resident.
“When you open up the window and you look outside, there is a lot of emotion that gets stirred,” said Stevens, who arrived in town late last night after the Celtics’ loss to the Wizards in Boston.
In some ways it brings full circle a transition that began in early July, when Stevens stunned the college and pro basketball world with his move to the Celtics. Since then he has been adjusting to the extended NBA schedule, different personalities of players and moving his family to the East Coast.
“This is obviously a challenge-and I knew it would be because were in a position where we’re in a process of growth,” said Stevens of taking the Celtics job. “But I’ve also been in situations like that at Butler in certain years and the thing that I enjoy seeing are the small steps and the small improvements, the incremental improvements. That’s the positive of coaching.
One of the biggest obstacles for Stevens early has been the increase of time and games when coming to the NBA. At Butler he would coach at the maximum 40 games in a season and that accounts for just half of the NBA season, so adjustments were necessary.
“It very different. We’re 29 games and 37 including exhibition. The exhibition is crazy,” said Stevens of the extended schedule. “But at the same time the summers are different too so it’s an interesting dynamic I’ll be able to better answer a year settled.”
Yet even with the busy schedule Stevens continues to keep his focus and his mind on Butler. While his role as an NBA coach puts some restrictions on the contact he can have with the players, Stevens says he makes sure to check out every Butler game he can.
He mentioned that he saw Butler’s win over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic at the Fieldhouse and that his kids went to Butler on Sunday to meet with some of the coaches, as Stevens keeps his loyalty to the school.
“They are rolling right now,” said Stevens of the Bulldogs, who improved to 9-2 with a win over Evansville Saturday-a game he couldn’t watch because it wasn’t on TV. “There is nothing better than watching that.”
Then, in typical Stevens fashion, he broke up the conversation with a comical quip.
“I told you this in July-they are going to be a lot better without me,” joked Stevens-with the same humility that made him a favorite in the city to which he’s now a guest.